When you were as bad at offense as the New York Mets were, any slight upgrade is not only noticeable, it is celebrated. 

That was the case when the team traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, players with limited offensive abilities but certainly no worse than what it already ran out there every day. But the next upgrade was major, and it looks to have completely transformed the Mets from a meek attack to one with the potential to be good.

Yoenis Cespedes is the reason.

When the Mets traded for him just before Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the expectation was he would bring an intimidating, powerful presence to the middle of the team’s batting order. The 29-year-old outfielder started fulfilling those expectations Monday night in a blowout win over the Miami Marlins.

Cespedes went 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored. All three of his hits were doubles, which tied a franchise record for the most in one game. It also gave him 31 doubles for the season, tying him with Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis for the major league lead. Baseball blogger D.J. Short was impressed:

And those doubles were no bloop jobs down the lines. They were scorched shots, two of which barely missed being home runs and tested the durability of the outfield wall at Marlins Park. They also showed why the man should be one of the most feared hitters in the National League for the next two months—and possibly next three.

It was Cespedes’ breakout game for the Mets, who acquired him from the Detroit Tigers for two pitching prospects. In two games over the weekend, Cespedes was 1-for-7 with a walk and a run scored. The Mets won both, though, to sweep the rival Washington Nationals, and with Monday’s win and Washington’s loss they are now in first place by a game. 

Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before Cespedes showed his worth. He was a power hitter with developing offensive skills for the Tigers, posting his best season with a .293/.323/.506 slash line, 18 home runs and a 126 OPS+.

A player who can provide that kind of production can have a tremendous impact in a short amount of time. And the Mets will only benefit with Uribe, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda and possibly even David Wright—who could start playing rehab games next week—all healthy and productive surrounding Cespedes in the lineup.

“Now you’ve got a major league lineup from 1 through 8, and that hasn’t always been the case for the Mets,” ESPN’s Pedro Gomez said on the network Monday. “And that could very well be doom for the Washington Nationals.”

Cespedes captured New York fans’ hearts in 2013 when he put on a stunning show in the Home Run Derby at Citi Field. His max-effort swing and flair are perfect for this Mets team, which is in need of both power and a star who is not a pitcher. MLB.com’s Michael Baron was still stunned at the team’s acquisition:

That could lead to the Mets and their fans having a passionate love affair with Cespedes. The problem is it is almost certain to end after the season.

Normally a team that acquires a player in a contract year has a shot to re-sign him. But that is not the case with the Mets and Cespedes because his contract stipulates he must be released within five days of the World Series if he has not been re-signed. And per collective bargaining rules, a team that releases a player is not allowed to sign him as a free agent until May 15. Also, the team cannot make him a qualifying offer and reap a compensatory draft pick, another stipulation of his contract, although because he was traded during the season, the Mets would not have been allowed to do that anyway.

That makes it virtually impossible for the Mets to keep Cespedes long-term, which is the reason he came so cheaply. It also means that come this fall and winter the Mets will be in the same position they were in last offseason and last week—in need of an impact outfield bat.

But that is a problem for later. For now the Mets have gone from a completely one-dimensional team to something close to a complete one overnight. A week ago this was a club totally reliant on great starting pitching. It is now one that has to be respected across the board.

Even former rival and Mets nemesis Chipper Jones feels the momentum building fast:

Cespedes might be a short-term fix for the Mets, but the time he does have with them looks like it will be entirely enjoyable.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter and talk baseball here.

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